Motorcyclist Archives 1966: 85cc Kawasaki, BMW 4 and a Yamaha Sidecar

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Motorcyclist Magazine, June 1966 Issue 829

Motorcyclist Magazine, June 1966 Issue 829
Motorcyclist Magazine, June 1966 Issue 829©Motorcyclist
Motorcyclist Magazine, June 1966 Issue 829
Latest model from Kawasaki features 85cc two-stroke engine with rotary valve carburetion, 4-speed gearbox, high exhaust pipe and sports trim.©Motorcyclist

New 85cc Model From Kawasaki
MC 2016 Editor's Note: In 1966 this was considered a touring model…. Oh how times have changed.

Kawasaki Aircraft Co. Ltd. are the first words of this article…. It is amazing to think how things have changed for Kawi over the years. I believe the “Mother Company” is referred to as Kawasaki Heavy Industries now and boy have the bikes changed. The J1TL which is the subject of this article is the 8hp touring model which “turns out plenty of torque and top power”.

Engine: 85cc single cylinder two stroke rotary valve engine
Claimed Top Speed: 62 mph
Lubrication: [New] Kawasaki Superlube Oil Injection System
Clutch: Heavy duty 8 wet-type
Crank: Full circle balanced with extra main bearings
Suspension: "Designed for comfort and ease of handling as well as for sustained performance, the Kawasaki model J1TL features hydraulic telescopic fork and swingarm, balanced springs, high handlebar for natural riding position, and an extra soft seat."

What impressed us the most when looking back on this article is the amount of technology and process that went into these small [by today’s standards] bikes. Of special note, the engine parts were magnifluxed before assembly to insure there were no stress cracks. The upper and lower ends were assembled with needle bearings and the oil injection system was variable. All this and our guess was that this motorcycle sold for maybe $400 in 1966. You would be lucky to find one partially disassembled for that kind of money today.

Motorcyclist Magazine, June 1966 Issue 829
Mister Needler’s BMW 4 with the 1200cc V-dub motor. Notice the custom valve covers cast in his garage.©Motorcyclist

A beautiful Marriage of Volkswagen Engine and a BMW Motorcycle Frame

Delbert Needler of DeSoto, Indiana couldn’t leave well enough alone. He decided to take a BMW R60 and jam a 1962 1200 cc Volkswagen engine into it. When he initially looked at this project, it seemed like an easy job. The rotation was correct, the weight and the displacement were readily acceptable, and the clutch arrangement was adaptable to the BMW gearbox.

Using the BMW gearbox would greatly simplify this crazy transformation by using the the original:

  • Shaft Drive
  • Kickstarter
  • Speedometer Drive
  • Foot Shift
  • Hand Clutch
  • Air Cleaner

Mating the gearbox required an adapter which pulled double duty as a flywheel housing and maintain concentricity [alignment]. The complete assembly was only 24.5” long and only required a three inch elongation of the frame. The frame did offer some challenges though and nearly derailed this build.

When Needler looked at the oil sump, he found that the BMW sump was long and narrow where the VW had a short and squat one. To make the motor out of Wolfsburg fit would require a frame cradle that either went around the sump or under it.

For a time, this project was shelved because there was too much work, and little time. That was until one day when Needler received a visit from an old friend on a 1938 Indian 4. Hearing the distinctive chug of the four gave him a nostalgic flashback to his youth and a long gone Henderson Four. With renewed enthusiasm, he returned to the project by visiting an auto wrecking yard and with two hundred dollars, picked up a 1962 1200 Volkswagen motor.

Editor's Note: We looked up the advertised horsepower of the 1964 BMW R60. According to Wikipedia, the mill from Munich put out 30 horsepower. The original article states that the horsepower of the VW motor was 40 horses for a 25% gain in power.

Four months later, 3 inches added to the “redirected” cradle and 9 casted covers later Delbert unveiled his 1964 R60 Four. It was 50 pounds heavier than stock with 25% more horsepower. What the builder was trying to achieve was a four with “modern springing” to relive his youth on. Well, he got that, powerful acceleration and a lot of attention wherever he goes.

Motorcyclist Magazine, June 1966 Issue 829
Gone are the days in Hollywood where you could slap a plunger on a helmet and call it a costume (top left). Nowadays, it would be a CGI plunger. See if you can spot it, the body of the sidecar is actually a fiberglass replica 1915 Model T with 18” removed from the center (top right). Famous movie car builder George Barris supervising the production of Rena’s crime-fighting Big Bear Scrambler (middle). 800 HP twin-engined “ZZR” chopped and channeled Model T bad guy mobile and the ‘66 250cc Yamaha Big Bear Scrambler (with mortar tube). One trick thing about the sidecar is that it actually leans with the bike (bottom left).©Motorcyclist

Flush's Fancy
A Yamaha Sidecar Outfit and a Custom Rod Steal the Show in Forthcoming 'Out of Sight' Spy Spoof Motion Picture

Fall of 1966’s cinema schedule included a film starring the voluptuous Rena Horten entitled Flush’s Fancy. Rena’s co-stars included midget [sorry little people, this is the way it was written in 1966] Billy Curtis, Why does this motion picture matter to the readers of Motorcyclist? Well because movie car legend George Barris slapped a sidehack on a 1966 Yamaha Big Bear Scrambler and added a mortar tube to make this a “battle-ready” crime fighting custom.

In a supporting role (in our opinion) was a Model T inspired twin-engined 800hp custom rod. Ironically for Kawasaki fans, the custom rod was called “ZZR”. We wonder if Kawasaki Aircraft Co. Ltd. (legal name in 1966) filed away that moniker for a later use….

Barris working out of his North Hollyweird shop crafted the 250cc Big Bear Scrambler with a quarter fairing and a trick Flexi-type sidecar frame that leans with the motorcycle. The current staff of Motorcyclist loves these old scrambler style machines, especially the Big Bear as it has a high pipe on each side. Combine that with the distinctive ring-a-ding-ding of a two smoker and we’re in heaven.

Another interesting note: This was the same year that Barris built the iconic Batmobile that catapulted him to everlasting fame. Could it be that the Scrambler and the Batmobile were built simultaneously?

Motorcyclist Magazine, June 1966 Issue 829
Just for fun… World’s Best Two Stroke.©Motorcyclist
Motorcyclist Magazine, June 1966 Issue 829
Long before Beats by Dr. Dre hit the marketplace, Krome Kwick Klips was on the scene. Notice the padlock for additional “security”.©Motorcyclist
Motorcyclist Magazine, June 1966 Issue 829
Loafers not included.©Motorcyclist